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Screening Questions May Be Discriminatory

As baby boomers reach and surpass traditional retirement age, many wish to continue working. However, if you don’t already have a job, finding work as an older applicant can be challenging. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of California Irvine found that the call back rate for older workers was highest for younger applicants, followed by middle-aged, with the oldest receiving the fewest call backs. The study submitted resumes that were all similar except for age of applicant. Older women fared the worst, with the lowest call-back rate of any applicant group. 

Federal law makes age discrimination illegal, and prohibits discriminating against those older than 40 in terms of hiring, firing, and promotion. Discrimination is often not as blatant as saying those over 40 need not apply, but may be the result of screening practices - such as stating a preference for workers just out of college rather than those with a decade or more of experience. A recent case potentially headed for the Supreme Court, Villareal v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., asserts that the screening questions sent by the tobacco company to recruiters were discriminatory.  The questions showed a preference for recent college graduates. In this instance, Mr. Villareal was 49 when he applied for a job as a sales manager online and was never contacted for an interview. He was not alone - roughly 20,000 applicants were denied interviews because they were screened out based on the number of years since graduating college. This case is significant in underscoring the challenges for job seekers as hiring has increasingly moved online - and where companies can easily reject candidates without explanation. It also shows the challenges in countering age discrimination.

However, to help combat these challenges Congress recently introduced a new bill, Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination, which seeks to clarify the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. If passed, the new bill would allow more age discrimination cases to be brought by broadening the scope of what constitutes age discrimination.

For more information, or if you believe that you have suffered any type of workplace discrimination, please contact the experienced Atlanta employment discrimination lawyers at Buckley Beal LLP for an immediate consultation.

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